I’m running into a bizarre-feeling issue with poly here. I have a lovely partner, who has been super supportive of me every step of the way since coming out. The few who I’ve told in my life have taken it in stride as well. However, I’M still convinced that deep down I’m a bad person for needing this. I feel like I’m not playing by the rules, being selfish, all the things that people say to be critical about poly lifestyles. Is this something you’ve encountered before? Have any kind words?

If you’re struggling with self criticism but you have people around you who are supportive, try to lean on your trust and respect for those people. They wouldn’t be your partner and your friends if you didn’t trust them or respect their perspectives, so if they believe you are sensible and worthy, try to honor that. If they expressed any other opinion, you wouldn’t be like “nah, you’re ignorant and wrong,” you’d take them seriously. So their opinions of you also reflect the thoughts of someone you respect and believe in.

It might also help to direct some of the criticism outwards. You’re right that there are lots of nasty societal messages about poly people - we are taught since we’re young by music, movies, books, and other media that being monogamous is the same as being moral and having integrity. And we internalize that, and it can make it hard for us to practice self compassion and live into who we really are without shame. It’s not only poly people - women, the LGBTQ community, any minority must live with the echoing voices of dominant narratives telling them they’re flawed, not good enough, deviant.

But instead of getting down on yourself, try getting down on society. It’s wrong and it’s destructive and it’s not fair that we’re handed these toxic messages and we don’t get positive media representation. It’s sad and frustrating that we have to dig a healthy identity out of this mess. Remind yourself that these difficulties aren’t your fault, and that you’re not alone in dealing with them. Indulge in a little self-righteousness. Read work online by poly activists, read about self care and self compassion. And continue surrounding yourself with loving, supportive people.